Forrester Praises Ruling that Preserves Rutherford County Election Administrator’s Job

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said he applauds a federal judge’s ruling today that stops the firing of the Rutherford County election administrator.

“This decision puts the brake on what appears to be a wholesale removal of election administrators across the state,” Forrester said. “Why would you fire people who have such a wealth of experience and knowledge of the election process if it weren’t political patronage?

“These firings and the refusal of Secretary of State Tre Hargett to implement the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act lead me to believe there is an organized effort by Republicans to obstruct fair and verifiable elections.”

U.S. District Judge John Nixon issued the temporary restraining order after a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Rutherford County Election Administrator Hooper Penuel and seven other election administrators contending Republicans violated their constitutional rights by conspiring to treat their jobs as political patronage.

The other seven already have been terminated by their local election commissions.

Republicans gained control of the state Legislature last November. Republican legislators decide who will serve on the county election commissions in the districts they represent. Republicans now control local election commissions in all 95 counties.

Additionally, the secretary of state has refused to implement the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which mandates that all county election commissions make the switch to paper ballots before the 2010 election. Hargett claims he cannot implement the law because voting machines having the cited standards do not exist.

“Mr. Hargett is hiding behind a weak opinion issued by the General Assembly’s legal counsel,” Forrester explained. “And he has been trying to drum up support for his obstinate behavior by claiming to be fiscally responsible.

“He is being disingenuous. The General Assembly passed the law and allotted more than $37 million to help counties purchase these machines. Mr. Hargett should do the job he was sworn to do.

“Elections are the very foundation of our democracy. We need to be confident that our votes count and that our election process is fair,” he added.

 

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